Preventive services for adolescents: Exploring the process of change

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This paper reports on a quasi-experimental study which compared outcomes for young people referred to specialist family support teams with those for others referred to mainstream social work teams. Although there was no evidence that the specialist service was more effective in promoting changes in child and family functioning, nevertheless, many young people in both groups showed improvement in this respect. This paper explores how, why and in what circumstances these positive changes occurred. The factors which moderated or mediated the effectiveness of interventions included both risk and protective factors for emotional and behavioural problems and aspects of the interventions themselves. The paper explores the mechanisms whereby these factors interacted to help or hinder workers' efforts to promote change. Child and family attributes and histories, the duration of child and family difficulties, motivation and optimism all moderated the impact of interventions, making change more, or less, likely to occur. Aspects of the interventions themselves also mediated their effectiveness, such as their ecological approach, the strategies used to change child behaviour and parenting style and the development of a therapeutic alliance. These moderators and mediators of change had a stronger impact on the outcome of interventions than differences in service type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-461
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • adolescents
  • family support
  • family preservation
  • prevention
  • motivation
  • therapeutic alliance
  • RISK
  • CARE

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